Teacher, Homer 12-year-old among top award winners

Posted: Sunday, June 18, 2000

Extraordinary volunteer skills were noticed and honored for five Kenai Peninsula women who were named First Lady's Volunteer Award winners.

Each volunteer was nominated by members of their communities who noticed their deeds and thought it necessary that their volunteer efforts be recognized. About 150 people were nominated statewide.

Susan Anderson, a Hope-Sunrise resident since the mid-70s, was nominated by the Hope-Sunrise Community Library for her many achievements in the small community.

"Recognizing that individual self-sufficiency can only be gained through the acquisition of information and knowledge," the nominating the letter said about the volunteer, in 1987, Anderson sought funding to renovate the community's former one-room schoolhouse for the purpose of creating a library.

Throughout the 90s, Anderson expanded the library's mission of serving solely as a repository of information to one of technical assistance and support to community members in their endeavors toward economic self-sufficiency.

She also organized a public forum to identify viable economic development projects, resulting in an arts and crafts cooperative, and she was instrumental in acquiring funds to renovate a building on the library property so that community members without electricity would have a place to work their craft.

Another volunteer, Juanita Cox, was nominated by the Homer Health Center.

Cox, 79, has volunteered for the past seven years, for two or more days a week.

"She is a dedicated, reliable and extraordinary volunteer, kind, helpful and always willing to be of assistance in any way she can," the nomination letter said.

Cox also is a support person for Friends of the Homer Health Center, a nonprofit group focusing on providing health education materials for the Public Health Nurses' health promotion programs and classes.

She also volunteers for her church, the local Food Pantry, serves on the pantry board of directors and is said to help a friend or neighbor in need.

"She is always there with a listening ear to those who need someone to share and care," the letter said.

Sharon Merle was nominated by Vicki Johnston-Freese, of Sterling Elementary School.

In her nominating letter, Johnston-Freese said Merle has been a valuable contributor to both the students and the staff at the school.

Her volunteering originated one day a week in the kindergarten and first-grade classrooms, library and wherever else she was needed.

Over the 14 years she has been at the school, she has watched the students progress through the sixth-grade and move on to become high school graduates.

Her one volunteering day has turned into many more hours, depending on unusual needs and other programs.

The final peninsula winner proved there is no age limit on helping out.

Kira Olsen has been a regular and dependable volunteer at the Pratt Museum in Homer since she was 8 years old, Catriona Lowe said in a nomination letter.

Olsen, now 12, started guiding children through the marine gallery at the museum, demonstrating how to feed the critters housed there.

She has since transferred to the office to file, copy, enter data and handle bulk mailings.

She now assists the curator and has taken on the job of reorganizing the museum's extensive historical photograph collection.

"She is a conscientious and enthusiastic volunteer and an invaluable help," the letter said.

Jane Stein also was honored for her vast volunteer involvement (See related story, page A-1).

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